Pregnancy
38 weeks and 4 days pregnant

Your baby’s neck muscles have strengthened, so the head can be held well away from the chest wall. Once delivered though, the buoyancy provided by the amniotic fluid will be lost and you will need to support your baby’s head at all times while holding him.

Could your baby be dreaming already? A lot of his movements are occurring when he’s fast asleep.

Your baby has been practising breathing since the 10th week of pregnancy but now the pattern has changed from short practice bursts lasting 10 seconds or so, to a regular rhythmic breathing pattern of approximately 40 breaths per minute, just as the baby will breathe after birth.

Eye movements have also matured with periods of rapid eye movement (REM) lasting for just over 25 minutes at a time and rest periods lasting just under 25 minutes. REM sleep is closely coupled with periods of increased activity and a faster heart rate. So, just because your baby is moving it doesn’t always mean that he’s awake.

Although your baby cannot stretch out as freely as before, movements at least 10 times a day should continue in the same familiar pattern and are a reassuring sign of a healthy baby.

The recommendations by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) are that all women should be allowed to drink water in labour, and that isotonic, or sports, water may be slightly more beneficial because of its higher calorie value and quick absorption into the body.

Eating light snacks, even in established labour, is recommended as long as you haven’t had opioid painkillers, which include pethidine and diamorphine, and there are no other risk factors that might mean you will need to have a general anaesthetic.

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During labour it’s essential to stay hydrated. Your body will be working hard and you’re likely to be hot.

What is a membrane sweep and could I have this instead of being induced if I end up being overdue?

Prior to an induction of labour, at 41-plus weeks of pregnancy, it is recommended that all women are offered a membrane stretch and sweep to assess the readiness of the cervix for labour.

A membrane sweep involves your midwife or doctor placing a finger just inside your cervix and making a circular, sweeping movement to separate the membranes from the cervix. The aim of this is to stimulate the release of hormones that may start labour contractions. Although this is likely to be an uncomfortable procedure, it should not cause you actual pain; you will also experience a mucus/bloodstained “show” following a membrane sweep, which is quite normal.

Membrane sweeps have been shown to increase the chance of labour starting naturally within 48 hours and therefore reduce the need for other methods of induction. Your midwife will advise you nearer the time.

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